Early August Primaries

We have made it through the July hinterlands of primary elections and the season picks up now through September 18th when Massachusetts will hold their primary. However, there are a few interesting races that will occur in the first half of August that will set the fields for the Congressional races and of the six states holding primaries from now until August 11th, five states have Senate races this year.

First up on August 2nd are the Tennessee primaries. In the Senate race, Bob Corker, whom many consider a “squishy” conservative, should survive a primary challenge from Gulf War veteran Zach Poskevich and Brenda Lenard, who describes herself as a “Frederick Douglass Republican.” Reading Lenard’s website, it sounds as if she would be the best conservative choice for Tennessee and one should check her performance in the primary despite the fact Corker will most likely win. On the Democratic side, a five-person field will vie for the nomination and most pundits predict a victory for Larry Crim. The House races in Tennessee are rather anti-climactic as all incumbents should win their primaries and general election campaigns.

On August 7th, like the House races in Tennessee, in Kansas there should be no upsets as all four Republican incumbents are running basically unopposed. In fact, in the 1st District, Democrats are not even fielding any candidates. Up in Michigan, Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow is running unopposed in her primary. For the Republicans, this race boils down to former Representative Pete Hoekstra against Clark Durant who founded an independent school network in the Detroit area. Given Hoekstra’s missteps thus far, one would have to question his ability to defeat Stabenow although preliminary polls show he would give Stabenow a tougher, closer fight. Part of that is Durant’s lack of exposure statewide which will change in a general election campaign.

In the Michigan House race primaries, there should not be too many surprises. There are two vacancies- a Democratic seat in the 5th and a Republican seat in the 11th. The 11th is rather vexing to the GOP in that the state was redistricted to help incumbent Thaddeus McCotter. However, McCotter failed to file the necessary papers and signatures on time thus dumping him from the ballot. His only option would have been a write-in campaign that he decided against. It was a foregone conclusion that the Dems would run Syed Taj against him, but now it will likely be Kerry Bentivolio. Still, the chances of the GOP retaining this seat in the fall are better than the Democrats keeping the former seat of Dan Kildee in the 5th. There, Dan Kildee, Jr. will likely run against Republican Jim Slezak who also ran a decent campaign in 2010. The remainder of the House primaries are pretty much set in stone although John Conyers in the newly drawn 13th District will face some formidable opposition in the primary in state senators Glenn Anderson and Bert Johnson and state representative Shanelle Jackson.

In Missouri, Claire McCaskill is running unopposed for the Democrats, but for the Republicans it is a three-horse race. The presumptive front runner is current Congressman Todd Akin, businessman John Brunner and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman. Although polls indicate that Akin would perform the best against McCaskill, any of these Republicans would, according to the same polls, defeat McCaskill in the general election. That illustrates McCaskill’s precarious situation in Missouri this year. If she prevails, it will not be by much and one can rest assured that the GOP will heavily target this seat in the Senate come November.

In the Missouri House race primaries, there are a couple of races of interest. After redistricting (Missouri lost a seat in the census), Russ Carnahan, a Missouri political mainstay, decided to take on William Lacey Clay, another Missouri mainstay, for the Democratic nod in the 1st District. Either candidate will emerge weakened after this primary and the other mainstay will sit out this cycle. This is a safe Democratic district come November. In the open 2nd (Akin is running for Senate), the Democrats have four people in the primary. However, none of them have a chance in this heavy Republican district. The GOP will likely nominate former RNC co-chair, Ann Wagner. Meanwhile in the 3rd (Carnahan’s seat), Blaine Leutkemeyer will run for the Republicans against businessman Eric Mayer for the Democrats. Although close, thanks to redistricting and Carnahan’s decision to take on Clay in the 1st District’s primary, this opens the real possibility of a GOP pick-up in November.

There is also a question on the Missouri ballot- the misleading Public Prayer Amendment. I have written about this in a previous article and in theory it sounds great. But consider its effects. Would schools, for example, be required to excuse the one or two Muslim kids in class to go pray as they are required during the course of the day? I have no problem with arresting the attack on public expression of religion, but it is a double edged sword that needs more in-depth analysis. Also, the politics here is obvious. The Democratic Governor put this question on the primary ballot- not the general election ballot- in order to keep conservative turn out low in November.

Out in Washington, it will be Maria Cantwell, the incumbent Democrat, against state senator Michael Baumgartner. Preliminary polls show a strong victory for Cantwell, but that is what they also showed for Patty Murray in 2010 and she had to hold on at the end. In the House races, there are two open Democratic seats. Jay Inslee is running for Governor, leaving the 1st District open. For the Democrats, Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft executive, is the front runner in a crowded Democratic field while John Koster will be the candidate for the GOP. In a general election, this match up is considered a toss-up. Republicans feel that Rick Larsen is a good target in the 2nd and three candidates- Dan Matthews, Eli Olsen or John Shoop- will take him on in November. In the open 6th District held by the retiring Norm Dicks, Derek Kilmer will be the Democratic nominee. A four man field for the GOP will be decided on August 7th with Doug Cloud the prospective winner.

Hawaii will hold their primary on August 11th. There is an open Democratic Senate seat as Daniel Akaka is retiring. This was to be the coronation of Mazie Hirono as the next Senator, and it may just be in the end. However, she must first get by the tenacious former Representative Ed Case in the primary. For the Republicans, former Governor Linda Lingle who left office a relatively popular Republican Governor (for Hawaii) would be the front runner, but she too has to overcome a primary challenge by former state senator and representative John Carroll for the GOP nod. Most polls show that Lingle would lose in the general election to either Hirono or Case although the margin of defeat would be closer against Case. Against Carroll, both Democratic candidates show almost equal win margins. As has been mentioned by this writer previously, a strong run by Lingle, even in defeat, would divert limited resources by the Democrats into a state they take for granted when it comes to the Senate.

In House races in Hawaii, incumbent Democrat Colleen Hanabusa will run most likely against Charles Djou if he wins the GOP primary. He formerly, for a short period of time, represented this district and, according to most reports, was popular with his constituents. In the open 2nd District (being vacated by Hirono), a crowded field for both parties need to be sorted out on August 11th. Most likely for the Democrats is Mufi Hannemann although Esther Kiaaina is showing life in her campaign. For the Republicans, it will be either David Crowley, Matthew Digeronimo or Mark Terry. Either way, this seat will likely remain in Democratic hands come November.